Get ready to “Scream” on July 20th!
12 days until Scream hits shelves.
Here’s a little taste, enjoy!
Happy Reading – S
Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Halle squinted against the sunlight streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows in Mason Hall, Lakeview Academy’s main dining facility. The high, buttressed ceilings of the two main wings reached thirty-five feet above the students’ heads. Long, narrow tables with benches tucked beneath were grouped in rows under the different residence-house flags. Days with weather this nice were rare in early April, when rain and gloom seemed to be the norm. But not having to wear the school’s dark purple raincoats over their informal uniforms felt like a treat. Even the dining hall felt lighter, warmer, more welcoming when bathed in such brilliant natural light.
Halle pushed her breakfast around her plate with the back of her fork. The eggs tasted like rubber; the bacon, sand paper. Every time she took a bite she felt like she risked choking, certain the food would get caught in her throat, sending her to the hospital. “Wow, what happened to you?” she asked, looking up to see dark circles under Alex’s bright blue eyes.
Alex slid onto the bench next to Halle, below the Campbell House flag. He propped his elbows on the table, resting his head in his hands. His face looked as pale as his gray flannel trousers.
In the mornings, the students were allowed to sit at the table of their choice, unlike the other meals when they were required to sit in their house groups, girls at one table, boys at another.
“Yeah, you look like crap,” Izzy said, helping herself to a rare bowl of Cocoa Krispies somebody left behind on the cereal counter. A dribble of chocolate milk dripped on her shirt, staining her white polo.
“Thanks.” Alex reached for the god-awful brew the school cooks called coffee and glanced up toward the swinging doors to the kitchen just as Mr. Rivero walked through them, carrying a full tray of sausages. In his baggy white kitchen uniform, he hardly resembled the man Alex saw on the ferry yesterday, yet something still nagged at the fringe of Alex’s subconscious.
Mr. Rivero unceremoniously poured the breakfast meat into the warmer on the buffet table. Bits of gristle flew from the tray, leaving shiny droplets on the floor around his feet. The pork links looked more like sticks of chalk than meat. A thick layer of grease sloshed from the side of the pan onto the table. Alex’s stomach flipped as bile gathered in the back of his throat.
Halle followed her boyfriend’s gaze and gagged. “Yeah, that’s about enough to make me seriously consider becoming a vegetarian.”
Alex lifted the heavy cream-colored mug to his lips, blowing on the molten sludge so that he could take a sip. “I couldn’t sleep last night.”
Giving up on her scrambled eggs, Halle put her fork down and traced her finger down Alex’s back. “How come?”
Alex slouched, comfort replacing unease. “You know last night on the bus, when I told you I heard those two guys arguing down on the car deck?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Well . . . I think I heard more than them just fighting. This is going to sound crazy but I swear I heard a gun go off.”
Halle’s hand dropped and Izzy’s spoon froze before reaching her lips.
“I didn’t see anything, but the argument was getting really heated. Then this damn Beemer’s alarm went off, so I ducked out of sight before the dudes could see me. I thought I should probably go get someone to break up the argument when I heard an explosion, like the ones we just heard at the gun range with your uncle.”
Halle’s Uncle Mike was the lead detective for the West Vancouver Police Department. While they were visiting over the long weekend, he took them to a local gun range and taught them how to use a handgun.
“I swear it sounded just like a gun, Hal. I freaked when I heard it, like completely panicked. Dove to the ground and everything. I didn’t know what else to do, so I hid under this big-ass pickup truck.”
Izzy’s spoon fell from her fingertips, splashing puffed brown rice and tinted milk across the table.
“Then what?” Halle said, her eyebrows arching so high they almost hit her hairline.
“At first I couldn’t move, it was crazy. Then I saw their feet underneath the cars. A pair of boots, like mud-covered logger boots, then a pair of city-like loafers, kind of slick. Anyway, their shoes were standing there next to the outside railing; two pairs, then only one.”
Alex didn’t want to mention the splash he swore he heard, knowing it would have been next to impossible with the sound of the wind and the engines.
“And you didn’t think to tell us until now?” Izzy spat.
“Well, I was about to tell Halle last night when you interrupted us on the bus.” Alex sighed. “But it gets worse.”
Halle blinked. “What do you mean?”
“I swear the guy who did the shooting was Mr. Rivero.”
Halle choked, pounding her fist against her chest to clear the apple juice from her lungs. “You saw the school cook shoot somebody on the ferry last night?”
Alex ground his back teeth together. “I don’t know . . . I, I can’t be sure, but yeah, I think I did. I’ve been running the scene through my head like a million times, and I keep coming to the same conclusion.
“I went down to check out the cars. You know how I like to do that. There was this sweet-looking black Impala. Totally had me drooling. Perfect condition, red interior, original gauges. Completely mint.”
“Focus, Alex, for God’s sake, focus,” Izzy snapped. “We are talking murder here, not cars.”
Alex glared at his sister.
“Did you get a good look at the men’s faces?” Halle asked.
“Not really. They were looking out at the water. One guy was short, had a scarf wrapped around his neck, the other tall, like giant big.” Alex nodded in Mr. Rivero’s direction. “Like him.” The school cook’s abnormal size was often the butt of cruel student jokes. “The short guy looked cold. Kept rubbing his arms.”
Halle chewed her lower lip.
“The big guy wore a stocking hat, no hair showing, looked like he might be bald. Most of the time their backs were to me. But they had dark skin; not black, but like deep Hispanic, maybe Cuban or something.” Alex flicked his wrist with his thumb extended, pointing again to Mr. Rivero.
Halle wiped the remains of her juice from her lips with the back of her hand. “So, because the guy was bald and Cuban you automatically assume it had to be Mr. Rivero?”
Alex took a deep breath, holding it for several seconds. “How many big-ass, bald, Cuban-looking men do you think there are on Vancouver Island, Halle?”
“More than just one,” Halle argued.
Alex shook his head. “I’m telling you, I really think the guy who did the shooting was Mr. Rivero.”
“No way,” Izzy said. “Halle’s right. There’s got to be a ton of people who look like that on this island. Not just him.”
Across the room, Mr. Rivero wiped his hands on his grease-stained apron and returned to the kitchen with an empty stainless steel platter.
“He can’t even cook,” Izzy said. “No way could he kill someone.”
Alex pushed back from the table with his palms. “This is exactly why I didn’t tell you guys about this yesterday.”
“Hey!” Halle gripped Alex’s arm, stopping him from walking away. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll call Uncle Mike after classes and have him look into whether the police have heard anything about a guy getting killed last night. If things happened like you said, someone’s bound to have reported the shooting by now. There would have been an abandoned car to report on the ferry, at the very least.”
“You know Mike won’t talk about an ongoing case, Hal.”
“Yeah, that’s if there is one. But I got a box full of European chocolates Mom just sent me that I’ll use as a bargaining chip if he sounds reluctant. No one can say no to good chocolate.”
Alex inhaled deeply before sitting back down. She was right. Until they knew more, he needed to chill. Looping his arm over Halle’s shoulder, he pulled her against him. “Fine, you win for now.”